President Trump signed a long-awaited executive order yesterday aimed at boosting cybersecurity nationwide and preventing botnets — massive networks of infected computers and internet-connected devices — that can be used to take down websites or cripple critical infrastructure.

“As the Internet of Things continues to grow and more and more things are connected to the internet, these are going to become easier to do unless we take some action,” said James Waldo, a professor and chief technology officer of Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

In the order, Trump directed the Department of Commerce and the Department of Homeland Security to work with private companies to bolster their security networks.

In addition to botnets, security experts will be tasked with helping to prevent distributed denial of service attacks, in which vast networks of connected devices flood a website or server with bogus traffic until it shuts down. Last year, a DDoS attack directed at a New Hampshire internet services company took down dozens of high-profile websites, including Twitter and Netflix. Security analysts later traced the attack to a network of infected internet-connected webcams.

And though the order includes measures that would reduce what kind of information people can send online and how frequently certain devices can send information, Waldo said those changes would have to be put in place by home router manufacturers whose main goal is to make their products as simple to use as possible.

“The attacks aren’t impacting their customers that much,” Waldo said. “There’s no real incentive for the companies to do something that makes their devices harder to use and doesn’t give their consumer any actual benefit.”


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